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KRONOS Vol IV, No. 2
"JUST PLAINLY WRONG": A CRITIQUE OF PETER HUBER (II)
LYNN E. ROSE
The first installment of this paper, dealing with the earliest references to Inanna or Venus, appeared in the special A.A.A.S. issue of KRONOS (Volume III, Number 2) entitled Velikovsky and Establishment Science. That first installment was written on the basis of a mimeographed version of Huber's A.A.A.S. paper (labelled "Revised version, April 1974"), which was entitled "Early Cuneiform Evidence for the Planet Venus". Huber's paper was subsequently published, with numerous further changes, in Scientists Confront Velikovsky (Cornell University Press, November, 1977 – that is, some time after my first installment had already gone to the printer). Huber's title itself was changed to "Early Cuneiform Evidence for the Existence of the Planet Venus".
Many of Huber's changes were trivial, but some were significant. The following short paragraph, which I had severely criticized in my first installment (even though it might be regarded as something of a concession on Huber's part), was deleted in its entirety from his published version:
Why was this paragraph deleted? So that no concession whatsoever, even a half-hearted and misleading one, need be made toward Velikovsky? This paragraph appeared on page 5 of Huber's mimeographed version. My criticisms of the paragraph appeared on pages 108-111 of my first installment; and on page 111, in order to show that the similarity is "borne out by the more elaborate representations", I presented the photograph of the cylinder seal impression that was cited by Huber.
This second and concluding installment of my paper, dealing primarily with the Ninsianna observations (sometimes mistakenly assigned to the reign of Ammizaduga in the First Babylonian Dynasty), is based both on the mimeographed version and on the published version of Huber's paper. The pages of the mimeographed version run from 1 to 37, and the pages of the published version run from 117 to 144; thus the reader can determine from the numbers themselves whether I am referring to the mimeographed version or to the published version. Since those two versions frequently differ, I will refer sometimes to one, sometimes to the other, but whenever possible to both. A reference such as "page 8/123" means that the passage in question appears in both versions, on page 8 of the mimeographed version and on page 123 of the published version. A reference such as "page 11/(126)" means that the material quoted appears verbatim on page 11 of the mimeographed version, but in substantially different form, or at least non-verbatim, on page 126 of the published version; mutatis mutandis for "page (9)/124". A reference such as "page 5" or "page 142" means that the passage appears only in the mimeographed version or only in the published version, respectively.
"A SAD STORY INDEED"
Huber has severely criticized Velikovsky for using many older sources and not enough of the more recent sources. This is a criticism that has frequently been advanced during the years since Worlds in Collision was published; usually, as in Huber's case, the criticism relates to modern scholarly writings on antiquity. What it amounts to is that Velikovsky allegedly used too many sources from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and not enough from the mid-twentieth century. Each new generation of scholars tends to flatter itself regarding its supposed breakthroughs. But the fact is that very little has fundamentally changed during the past one hundred years in the way scholars treat antiquity: the conventional chronology is still adhered to by the vast majority of today's authors; and the archaeological, stratigraphical, monumental, and literary evidence against that conventional chronology is swept under the rug today even more carefully than it was two or three generations ago.
Sometimes, in fact, it is necessary to turn to older sources in order to find candid reports and honest discussions of discoveries whose embarrassing nature had not yet been fully realized. Once scholars realized how those empirical findings went against the conventional chronology, they tended to stop talking about them. Thus there was a flurry of interest in the fourth-century Greek letters found on the backs of tiles made under the supposedly twelfth-century pharaoh, Ramses III, but that interest largely subsided as the hopelessness of any explanation in terms of the conventional chronology became apparent. Furthermore, sometimes the older field reports give us what the excavators really found, whereas the later scholarly treatises tell us only what should have been found according to conventional or uniformitarian views. Thus we saw in the first installment of this paper that Huber's sources describe an incandescent, cometary Venus, while Huber, coming along later, tries to minimize such evidence and to argue that the ancients saw Venus in the same way that we see it today.
In those extremely numerous instances in which later scholars mainly repeat what earlier scholars had said, there is little reason to cite the later, repetitious literature. The main reason that more recent literature is so often cited is that it is good politics to do so: if a book cites and makes a fuss over the living authorities in the field, it may get better reviews, since those authorities themselves, together with their friends and their students, are likely to turn up among the reviewers. But that is not Velikovsky's way. As he said in the Acknowledgements to Peoples of the Sea.
Those "new publications" often emphasize trivial variations upon the older views, but in the light of Velikovsky's revolutionary changes such variations seem insignificant.
Even in the area of translations, about which Huber appears to be particularly concerned, it is by no means obvious that newer translations are always better than older ones. Sometimes, of course, there may be legitimate reasons for criticizing an older translation of some given text. In Worlds in Collision (page 161), Velikovsky mentioned a report by Weidner that the Assyrians called Venus "The great star that joins the great stars". Huber claims that this is a mistranslation and that the meaning is simply that Venus is "the greatest of the great stars". Probably Huber is right about this, and probably Weidner is wrong, but I would like to reserve judgment until the text in question is examined from a Velikovskian perspective. In any case, the weight of the ancient testimony that supports Velikovsky's theories is enormous, with or without Weidner's translation.
Despite a few such cases as this, the newer expositions and translations tend to be less reliable than the older ones. This is especially noticeable where uniformitarianism and the conventional chronology are concerned. If a given text appears to run against uniformitarianism or against the conventional chronology, the more likely it is that scholars will eventually find a way to twist the text to their liking, either by deleting the text entirely or by emending or translating it in such a way as to conceal its true import. This has happened repeatedly. In the Ninsianna observations, a report of five months and sixteen days - the original reading was probably five months and seventeen days - eventually was arbitrarily rewritten as two months and six days, just to conform to uniformitarian retrocalculations! Even while Huber was revising his paper, Daniel Reisman (cited by Huber on page 143) published an English translation of the "hymn to Inanna" that managed to tone down much of the embarrassingly Velikovskian flavor that pervades the German translation by Falkenstein and von Soden that Huber - without a word of criticism - had used originally (see my first installment).
Giordano Bruno wrote that if beliefs are true because they are old, then they were false when they were new (La Cena de le Ceneri, Dialogue One); see A. Mann Paterson, The Infinite Worlds of Giordano Bruno, page 94. Bruno's point should be taken to heart by those who reject Velikovsky's new perspective on the grounds that uniformitarianism and the conventional chronology have been around for so long that they must be true. The converse of Bruno's point applies to Huber: if Huber tells us that only the newer publications are reliable, then we may expect them to become unreliable when they grow older! And this is what may indeed happen. The more recent "translations" are the very ones that will most likely fall into disrepute, once they are examined from a Velikovskian perspective.
Huber can be very picayune when Velikovsky quotes a book written a half century earlier. Yet 1978 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Venus Tablets of Ammizaduga, by Langdon and Fotheringham and Schoch (hereafter LFS). This book is totally uniformitarian in its outlook. Indeed, it is the very book that "corrects" five months and sixteen days into two months and six days, simultaneously "correcting" Nisan 9 and Ulul 25 into Ayar 29 and Ab 5, respectively! This book is not only Huber's general model for treating the Ninsianna tablets, but appears also to be the main guide for his remarks about the calendar in use during the First Babylonian Dynasty.
Huber's point about the calendar is that there are numerous documents from the First Babylonian Dynasty, mostly agricultural and other contracts, that contain references to intercalary months; and he claims that the general frequency of those intercalations would fit the requirements of a luni-solar calendar for our present solar system. Huber quotes a well-known letter from Hammurabi, decreeing that there will be a second Ulul that year. He also claims that the intercalations in the twenty-one-year reign of Ammizaduga are in exact correspondence with the intercalations needed or recorded in the twenty-one years of Venus observations on the Ninsianna tablets. This is a matter that will be discussed a little later, in connection with the Ninsianna tablets. For now, we will confine our attention to the general import of the contracts themselves and of the related documents such as the Hammurabi letter:
The following remarks are from pages (10)/124-125 of Huber's paper:
Footnote 11 cites my paper on "Babylonian Observations of Venus" in its entirety. That paper, written in mid-1972 and first published early in 1973 in Pensée IVR III, summarized the work that Raymond C. Vaughan and I had done up to that point. There were many subjects that were not treated in that summary, one of which was the traditional argument that the intercalations found in or needed in the Ninsianna observations "fit" the intercalations attested under Ammizaduga. This supposed "fit" allegedly ties the Ninsianna observations to the reign of Arnmizaduga. It will be shown below that there is no such "fit" and that this "main argument" of Huber's, that the observations are from the time of Ammizaduga, has no merit. (Indeed, this same argument was relied upon fifty years ago by LFS; it had no merit then, either.) Vaughan and I had examined the argument as early as the Spring of 1972. Since it had no merit, it was not necessary to discuss it in the summary of our work that I included in "Babylonian Observations of Venus" later that year. But neither Velikovsky nor Vaughan nor I "overlooked" the argument.
Huber's reasons for stressing the intercalary months were also spelled out in a letter to Robert Bass (HUBER to BASS, August 11, 1975) :
"I therefore elaborated on this point when I revised my manuscript and quoted a well-known Hammurabi letter on the insertion of an intercalary month."
Vaughan and I are of the opinion that the Ninsianna observations may pertain to the eighth century, since the orbits of Venus and Earth that the observations suggest are similar to those that, according to Velikovsky's sequence of events, would probably have obtained at some time during the eighth century or so. Such was our reasoning. We did not rely on the references to the Umman-Manda. In my paper I mentioned that Schiaparelli did rely on the references to the Umman-Manda and that he tried to use them as a basis for assigning the tablets "to a period no earlier than the eighth century". I then added: "Vaughan and I, unexpectedly, became inclined toward a similar dating, but for different reasons" (emphasis added). Our arrival at "a similar dating, but for different reasons" surely does not amount to an endorsement of the argument used by Schiaparelli, regardless of the "impression" that Huber formed.
Let us now turn to the general context within which the received opinions about such matters as intercalation have developed. Over the years there has been a close cooperation between Assyriologists and astronomers. The interpretation of texts has been carefully guided by astronomical retrocalculation, in accordance with uniformitarian principles. The Venus Tablets of Ammizaduga is a microcosmic replica of the sort of cooperation that has pervaded scholarship generally: Langdon was an Assyriologist, Fotheringham was an astronomer, and Schoch was a mathematician, concentrating here on tables to facilitate astronomical retrocalculation.
In the work of these three scholars the interdisciplinary cooperation, though misguided, was there for all to see. But this has not always been the case. Indeed, a problem with such cooperation is that sometimes we do not even know that it has occurred. A historian may consult an astronomer regarding an eclipse or other astronomical event. The astronomer will calculate possible dates for the event. The historian will then arrange his chronology so as to fit the astronomer's retrocalculations. Then some time passes, and the chronology becomes orthodox. The grounds for the chronology are forgotten, and it is assumed to rest on solid historical evidence. No one remembers or can even find out any more that it rests on astronomical retrocalculations. Then a new generation of astronomers and historians play the game again, this time in reverse direction. The chronology is taken as independently fixed, and the eclipse or other event is taken as datable on purely historical grounds. Then someone retrocalculates in the same manner as before, but not in order to set up the chronology this time - just to check it. And of course all the pieces fit. Different generations have made the same numerical computations and obtained the same results. Two plus two was four a century ago, and two plus two is four today, but that does not prove that Earth, Venus, the Moon, and Mars were following the same orbits three or four thousand years ago that they are following today. Nothing about what really happened in antiquity can be shown by such procedures. What is perceived as an independent check is not a check at all, let alone independent.
Velikovsky called attention to this sort of problem in his "Answer to My Critics", Harper's Magazine, June, 1951, page 53:
(We shall see later that ancient as well as modern scholars seem to have proceeded in this same way, and to have indulged in retrocalculated history. Velikovsky is well aware of this: later on, I will quote from that same page his remarks about Ptolemy's use of retrocalculated "data". )
There are numerous examples of tentative proposals becoming canonical, simply because of the passage of time. Back in the nineteenth century, Boeckh guessed that the dates of Eudoxus might be 408-355. Eventually, all of the qualifications were dropped. Today, many dictionaries and encyclopedias and other reference books give those dates as if they were beyond question. In 1938 de Santillana discovered that it is far more likely that the dates were really 390-337. But the "traditional" dates of 408-355, though never proved in the first place, have become so widely circulated and so well-entrenched that de Santillana's better dates, even though they have been available for a number of decades now, have so far not even been much noticed, let alone accepted.
Even better entrenched are the unsupported uniformitarian dogmas of the retrocalculators, such as LFS. The texts that such people deal with have been carefully sifted and, where "necessary", rewritten, so as to fit the astronomers' dogma that the solar system has for perhaps billions of years been as it is now, and that the planets have for perhaps billions of years been on their present orbits, with only negligible changes due to long-range perturbations.
The evidence presented to us by such people must be viewed with caution. They have too many uniformitarian axes to grind. They cannot be relied upon, any more than Huber could be relied upon to report faithfully the contents of the "hymn to Inanna" or the myth of "Inanna's Descent to the Nether World", or to acknowledge the cometary character of the Inanna symbol itself (see my first installment). We need to know how many texts such people have ignored or discarded or "rewritten" or otherwise misreported just because those texts seemed implausible to them. Some texts that refer to lunar months with more than thirty days have been published, but how many others have been passed over? This information is not available (any more than is information about how many radiocarbon test results have been discarded as unacceptable and never published). It is imperative that scholars open-minded toward Velikovsky's theory reexamine all the relevant texts. When this is done, the evidence may turn out to be not only consistent with, but strongly supportive of Velikovsky's theory.
How can we deal with claims that such evidence goes against Velikovsky? As someone once said: "The only sure way - and even it is none too sure - is to examine all the evidence yourself at first hand." Thus it has repeatedly been claimed that the Ninsianna tablets provide evidence that Venus has been on its present orbit for three, four, or even five thousand years (and that Velikovsky is therefore wrong). A long list of people have so reported the contents of the tablets: Payne-Gaposchkin, Kaempffert, Edmondson, de Camp, Stephens, van der Waerden, and now Huber. But when you do examine the actual contents of the tablets, all of these people prove to be mistaken.
It should be recognized that intercalations, whether in the form of the intercalary months that Huber is talking about or in the form of intercalary days of some sort, are not by themselves evidence against Velikovsky's theory. For Velikovsky's theory is that the year consisted of 360 days between the fourteenth and ninth or eighth centuries, and that there were twelve months of thirty days each. There should have been no intercalations anywhere in the world during this period, except perhaps for politicized or highly idiosyncratic calendar-making, which cannot be excluded. But there could have been legitimate or astronomically justified intercalations after the first of the near-collisions between Mars and Earth, which seems to have occurred early in the eighth century. And there would be nothing surprising about intercalary procedures in general being used in the period before the fourteenth century, that is, before the twelve-month, 360-day calendar came into effect.
Hammurabi's letter, quoted by Huber, is by itself insignificant. The fact is that neither a year of 365 1/4 days nor a lunar month of 29 1/2 days is clearly attested either in Hammurabi's letter or in any other document from definitely before the seventh century. Intercalary procedures used in the First Babylonian Dynasty or in the Egyptian Middle Kingdom are not by themselves evidence against Velikovsky. We need to determine what sort of calendar was in use, and just how the intercalary procedures related to that calendar.
Unfortunately, nearly all of the work that has been done on these matters has been carried out from a strictly uniformitarian perspective. Just as LFS grossly distorted the Ninsianna observations in order to make them fit the present cosmos, so they approached the First Babylonian Dynasty contracts with the same bias. Such people assume that the year must have been of 365¼ days and that the month must have been of 29½ days; they also assume that anything that the ancients saw must have been in accord with those "facts". Whatever the ancients said that conflicts with those "facts" must be "scribal error" or otherwise unreliable. Such texts have routinely been "corrected", that is, rewritten, to make them fit modern assumptions. Or else they have been ignored, left unpublished and unknown, retained in the uncharted depths of our great museums, and eventually filed under "lost".
Relatively few scholars have spent any appreciable amount of time studying the cuneiform texts that have been excavated and sent west. Those who have - Pinches, Schaumberger, Strassmeier, and a few others - have selected the documents they wanted to study, and have left others unscrutinized and unreported. Erica Reiner, as we shall see, had to reexcavate from the British Museum those additional Ninsianna tablets that she and David Pingree reported in their 1975 book, The Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa (hereafter RP).
The world remains very much in the dark as far as cuneiform tablets are concerned. The handling of these tablets by the Western nations who plundered the Middle East is nothing less than scandalous, and the scholars who participated in these activities have had much of which to be ashamed. Otto Neugebauer, an outspoken critic of Velikovsky, has also been outspoken in his criticism of his colleagues, patrons, and predecessors. His indictment of them is presented in his book, The Exact Sciences in Antiquity (second edition, Chapter III). After discussing at some length the shameful treatment of Egyptian artifacts, Neugebauer turns to Mesopotamia (pages 59-62):
Thus uniformitarian prejudices have censored or reburied some of the texts, while misrepresenting the contents of many of those other texts that have been selected and "edited" for publication. This, together with the entire and sickening state of affairs described by Neugebauer, would be quite enough to justify our going slow in accepting the claims of Huber and others to the effect that the tropical year and the lunar month, prior to thirty-five centuries ago, were the same as they are today.
The general question, whether the orbits of the Moon, Earth, and Venus are the same now as then, will be approached first in terms of the alleged "fit" between the Ninsianna observations and modern retrocalculations, and later in terms of what Huber himself calls his "main argument" that the Ninsianna observations are from the reign of Ammizaduga. That "main argument" alleges that another "fit" exists between the attested intercalations under Ammizaduga and the needed and/or recorded intercalations in the Ninsianna observations.
Huber approaches Velikovsky and the Ninsianna tablets as if he had never heard of Velikovsky's treatment of them on pages 198-199 of Worlds in Collision, and as if he had never heard of the subsequent work done by Vaughan and me. (The latter work has been described in several papers - "Babylonian Observations of Venus", "Reply to Ms. van Lieshout", and "Analysis of the Babylonian Observations of Venus" - and will be the subject of our forthcoming book.)
Readers are referred to the earlier literature, especially the last-named article and its Bibliography (KRONOS, Volume II, Number 2, pages 3-26). I shall not try to repeat here everything that has been said elsewhere. Rather, I shall simply enumerate and expose Huber's errors, with occasional references to those other writings in which the matters at issue have been treated in further detail.
Huber begins with the traditional assumption that the Ninsianna tablets present 21 years of observations, which modern scholars number from 1 to 17 and from 19 to 21, with a gap for the "missing" Year 18. But in fact 1 to 17 are physically separated from 19 to 21 by nearly fifty lines of extraneous material (the so-called "artificial insertion"), and we are not given the slightest clue as to what the relationship between the two sets of observations might be. I shall use the modern numbering system just for convenience. But it should be taken with a large dose of salt; it is entirely a modern invention and may turn out to be in need of revision.
Another tradition that I shall follow is that of referring to an invisibility by the year in which the disappearance took place. Where there are two disappearances in the same year, they are distinguished by letters, as, for example, Year 5a and Year 5b.
RP use the labels I, II, III, and IV for the major sections of the text. Thus Year 1 to Year 17 is called Section I, the artificial insertion is called Section II, and Year 19 to Year 21b is called Section III. Section IV is the listing of all except one or two of the invisibilities of Sections I and III, but in order of the months of disappearance, rather than in chronological order. After Section IV there are additional entries for Years 14 and 5b (RP miss the 5b), in which the scribes seem to be correcting earlier entries for those years. This short section could be called Section V, although RP do not do so. (Some tablets omit Section IV or Section V.)
Huber's analyses and interpretations of these Ninsianna observations are to be found mainly in his "Appendix: Technical Details", which is almost as long as the body of the paper itself. In this Appendix Huber gives some of the techniques used in his retrocalculations and in his determination of the best fit between those retrocalculations and the textual data. These matters are also dealt with in some detail in the main body itself. In spite of the length of all this discussion, however, the peculiar fact is that Huber never states any of his retrocalculated dates.
All that he has given us to work with is a graph (page 12/126) that gives the textual data ("corrected", in many cases) next to the retrocalculated "facts". This graph is of rather small scale, and it is not possible to recover Huber's exact retrocalculations by measuring with a ruler: an entire lunar month is squeezed into a space barely longer than two-fifths of an inch (only one-fifth of an inch in the printed version), and one cannot really tell the day of any of the events from the graph.
But Huber has not completely escaped us: we can still examine Huber's graph and determine whether he does or does not have a fit.
By his own uniformitarian principles, if a retrocalculated disappearance coincides with or closely follows a reported disappearance, that is a fit. But if a retrocalculated disappearance either precedes a reported disappearance, or follows it by an unreasonable amount of time, that is a miss. Similarly, if a retrocalculated reappearance coincides with or closely precedes a reported reappearance, that is a fit. But if a retrocalculated reappearance follows a reported reappearance, or precedes it by an unreasonable amount of time, that is a miss. According to David Pingree (RP, page 15), anything "more than a few days" would be an unreasonable amount of time:
We do not know that the condition specified and italicized by Pingree was always kept. So perhaps we should not be quite that strict. Weather conditions might occasionally advance a "last visibility" or retard a "first visibility" by more than a few days - say, a week or so. But this would be an occasional occurrence, an exception. Pingree is correct in saying that, in general, the margin of acceptability for uniformitarian retrocalculations is only a few days.
Also, by Huber's own uniformitarian principles, if an invisibility ends before Huber says it should start, or if Huber says it has ended before it even starts, then Huber may be said to have missed on both dates: an invisibility cannot end before it begins, or begin after it ends!
Huber's graph contains 50 recorded events (disappearances or reappearances) and the 50 "corresponding" retrocalculated events. Of the 50, only 20 might be considered fits, in terms of the criteria just stated. The remaining 30 - or 60% - are definitely misses, and a number of them are misses by more than a month! One even misses by nine months! (It should be mentioned that the reappearance in Year 5a was on II 18, not on II 8. Huber, it seems was misled by an error on page 24 of LFS - one of the risks that one takes when one consults the older sources! - and used II 8 on his graph. What seems from the graph to be a hit is really a miss. In the printed version of his paper (page 142), Huber detected this error, but he did not bother to correct the graph.)
My results for the 50 events, in chronological order from Year 1 to Year 21b, and with each of Huber's hits or misses indicated by an "h" or an "m", may be concisely expressed as follows:
[*!* Image: INSERT KIV2_46.JPG] Huber's Graph, as printed in Scientists Confront Velikovksy (Cornell University Press, 1977), page 126.
Huber's graph is reproduced above and the readers are invited to check these results for themselves. Notice that 60% are misses. (As we shall see in a later section, Huber has problems with the intercalary months. If he had handled the intercalary months properly, he would have missed on a full 76% of the events!)
In his paper and in the A.A.A.S. debate, Huber kept stressing that only 15 of the 50 events - or 30% - involved "scribal errors". He carefully avoided listing his retrocalculated dates, so that we cannot judge for ourselves how many of those dates were misses that would force Huber to have recourse to "scribal errors". But the graph tells the real story here. Huber's talk of 15 scribal errors and 30% is "just plainly wrong".
The fact is that Huber, like every other uniformitarian who ever tried to make sense of the Ninsianna observations, is obliged to engage in a wholesale rewriting of the data on the tablets. Many of them, like Fotheringham or van der Waerden, are less secretive about their rejection of most of what is actually said on the tablets. But even van der Waerden (Ex Oriente Lux, X,page 417), while radically rewriting or simply rejecting about three out of four reported observations, says that "All I have done is to remove inner contradictions from the text". What he means is that he has found that about three-fourths of the data contradict his own uniformitarian retrocalculations. How such contradictions can be construed as "inner contradictions" of the text remains one of the mysteries of uniformitarian logic.
Huber's Appendix is intended to show that the Ninsianna observations reflect the same sort of shift according to implied values of the arcus visionis as do the later Babylonian descriptions of Venus that date from the fifth through the first centuries. On page (26)/136, Huber reassures his readers: "I have tried to avoid and to eliminate any conscious or subconscious doctoring of the evidence." But he does not allow this remark to stop him from doctoring the evidence: he adds five intercalary months just where he wants them; he throws out nine of fifty reports as "impossibly deviant" (page 16/129); he puts five others in italics as "suspicious" (pages 22/132 and 30/138), presumably so that we will not weigh them as heavily; and he rewrites another report by nine months! He then argues that what is left is very loosely comparable to what we find in the later Babylonian texts. That comes as no great surprise; he has set up everything just the way he wants it, in order to prove just what he wants to prove. By the time he has finished rewriting and purging the Ninsianna observations, in an effort to make them come out in harmony with the present arrangement of the solar system, it does not really matter what he claims to be comparing them to; he has long since ceased to deal with the data anyway. His statistical manipulations lead to some very strange results, such as arcus visionis values that are negative: when the Sun is so many degrees above the horizon, it will be dark enough for us to see the planet on the horizon! This means that the event - appearance or disappearance - would have to be on the wrong side of the actual conjunction! These results in themselves should have alerted Huber to the fact that the Ninsianna data just do not fit the present orbits of Venus and Earth.
HUBER IN THE HUMANIST
Huber presented himself as the aggrieved party in his letter to The Humanist (printed on page 57 of the January/February 1978 issue). In what Velikovsky called his "Preface" to his A.A.A.S. paper (and in what The Humanist irresponsibly and improperly retitled his "Afterword - 1977"!), Velikovsky had said:
These remarks are entirely correct. But in his letter to The Humanist, Huber accused Velikovsky of "misrepresenting" him, and gave two examples. One example had to do with Huber's review of Weir, which will be discussed in a moment. The other example was given in the final paragraph of his letter:
As far as I know, everyone who has ever studied the Ninsianna observations would make the same emendation, and with good reason. This report, from Year 4, cannot originally have been "VII 2 (2mld) IX 3", because in the listing by months of disappearance there is neither such a disappearance in month VII nor even room enough for such a disappearance in month VII. Yet there is room for it if it originally read "IV 2 (2mld) VI 3". (Indeed, I will flatly assert that B.M. 41498, Reverse, lines 5-6 is "Year 4" and that it was placed where it is in the listing by months of disappearance precisely because the disappearance was in month IV. This may be confirmed also by VAT 11253, lines 13-16 of which give the correct month of disappearance, although the month of appearance is a different matter, and seems to be incorrect. Another possibility is that Year 4 is on lines 9-12 of VAT 11253. In either case, the way the invisibilities are listed here provides evidence that the disappearance was in month IV. I challenge anyone to propose a better interpretation of the status of Year 4 on B.M. 41498 and VAT 11253. RP seem to misinterpret those two tablets, in various ways, but even they agree that the disappearance in Year 4 was in month IV.)
Huber has chosen perhaps the most non-controversial emendation that he could have found, and he has then tried to pass it off as typical of what he had done. But it is not at all typical. It is quite atypical. And the first sentence of that final paragraph of Huber's letter is "just plainly wrong". There are five cases in which he does have to change east to west, and there are six cases in which he does have to change west to east. As it happens, I do not object to such changes, and would make them myself, but why does Huber not admit what he has done? I do object to the way Huber has to reject reported month names in at least ten cases. I also object to the way he has to reject as unacceptable, in a majority of cases, the dates of the month that are reported for disappearances and reappearances. To Huber it is of course the Babylonian reports that must be wrong, not his own retrocalculated "facts"!
Thus Huber's preference is to rewrite the tablets so that they will be consistent with the present orbits of Earth and Venus, rather than to have recourse to orbital changes within historical times. Yet the tone of his reaction to those who propose the latter recourse seems to depend upon whether it is Velikovsky or someone else who is doing the proposing. In 1973 Huber prepared a review of John D. Weir's The Venus Tablets of Ammizaduga (1972). Huber's review was mysteriously kind. He overlooked errors and shortcomings that he must have detected. Weir (page 78) had referred to the possibility that "a relatively large body may have entered the solar system and passed close enough to Venus and to the earth and moon to cause temporary [sic] perturbations of their orbits." Huber's review (in Bibliotheca Orientalis, XXXI, Number 1/2, page 86) described this idea as "äusserst unwahrscheinliche, aber nicht auszuschliessende" or "highly improbable, but not to be excluded". That is rather mild language. A few months later, when writing about Velikovsky, Huber took a much harder line. During the San Francisco debate, Velikovsky called attention to this inconsistency on Huber's part.
Huber protests in The Humanist about the way Velikovsky formulated Huber's position. I am willing to use any formulation that Huber wants, but Huber's switch in attitude was the basis of Velikovsky's remarks, and that switch did occur. In the review, he said that the disruption of the solar system by a fairly large body was "highly improbable, but not to be excluded". Yet when he turned to Velikovsky a few months later, he felt that it was to be excluded. Velikovsky was entirely justified in calling attention to this inconsistency on Huber's part. By the time he arrived in San Francisco, Huber did not want to take at all seriously the idea that "some dark star, like Jupiter or Saturn, may be in the path of the sun, and may be attracted to the system and cause havoc in it" (Worlds in Collision, page 373).
During the debate, Velikovsky quoted the relevant part of Huber's review of Weir. Huber's reply was that: "if something has a very low probability, then you do not believe in it. And I do not believe in it, because the probability is, in my opinion, really too low, if you just estimate the mean time between two encounters in the galaxy." This reply does not stand up to scrutiny.
In the first place, let us recall the closing paragraph of Velikovsky's "Afterword" (the real one!), which was published in KRONOS, Volume III, Number 2, pages 18-31:
In the second place, it is highly significant that Huber does not offer any numbers here. The fact is that no one has the slightest idea how many a "dark star" of Jovian or smaller size lies in interstellar space: such bodies are not yet within our capacity to detect, let alone count. Nor does anyone have the slightest idea how to "estimate the mean time between two encounters" with such bodies. Huber was simply offering the audience some pseudo-statistics that he thought might sound impressive; he had nothing with which to back it up.
THE SECOND ULULS
In the evening session, Huber repeated his point that agricultural contracts and other documents from the First Babylonian Dynasty mention intercalary months. This in itself, of course, is not a problem for Velikovsky. In order to cause any trouble for Velikovsky's theory, Huber would have to prove that prior to the Exodus there were just over 29 1/2 days in the lunar month and just under 365 1/4 days in the tropical year, the same as now. Most writers who treat such subjects merely assume that this is true, but there is no one who has presented the kind of demonstration - from all the surviving evidence, undoctored and without "corrections" - that would be necessary.
Velikovsky has argued that between the fourteenth and ninth or eighth centuries the year contained twelve months of thirty days each, with no intercalary days and no intercalary months. Huber will not be able to come forward with evidence of any astronomically-based intercalation from that time period.
Velikovsky has not described the details of the calendars that might have been in use prior to the fifteenth century and the near collision between Earth and Venus at the time of the Exodus. There is evidence (of which Huber may not be fully aware) that the year in effect thirty-five or more centuries ago did not contain an integral number of months and that various sorts of intercalation were indeed practised at that time.
It is not enough for Huber to show that there was intercalation in the First Babylonian Dynasty. We already know that. He has to show that Earth and the Moon were on their present orbits during the First Babylonian Dynasty. That has never been shown.
During the morning session, Velikovsky had remarked that the calendar used on the Ninsianna tablets "is a calendar of thirty days, without intercalary months, even if there are two references to Ulul the second". Is it possible, as Velikovsky suggests, that the two second Ululs on the tablets do not reflect a situation in which twelve lunar months fell short of one tropical year?
There are several ways in which this could indeed be the case. Vaughan and I will discuss these possibilities in more detail in our Commentary. For now, suffice it to say that an effort to change an erroneous reading of "on the first day" to "on the second day" could have gone astray and led instead to the changing of "Ulul" to "Ulul the second" in Year 19. The other second Ulul, in Year 11, could have resulted from an effort to accommodate the attested 11U of Ammizaduga, as part of a misguided ancient attempt to associate the assumed twenty-one consecutive years of Ninsianna observations with the twenty-one year reign of Ammizaduga. (It is significant that 11U is the only one of the eight or nine attested intercalations under Ammizaduga that would actually have conflicted with the Ninsianna observations, if they had originally had no intercalary months at all.) These proposals are quite speculative, of course, and should be viewed as such. But it must be stressed that Velikovsky's general suggestion, that the observations date from a time when there were no intercalary months, just twelve months of thirty days each, is entirely plausible.
Velikovsky suspects that the Ninsianna observations may be from the tenth, ninth, or eighth centuries. He does not put them at the time of Ammizaduga. Huber seems to be oblivious to this. Thus when Velikovsky said that there were no intercalary months at the time of the observations ("even if there are two references to Ulul the second"), Huber took this to mean that there were no intercalations at the time of Ammizaduga, and he told the audience of the various contracts from the time of Ammizaduga that mention intercalary months. "And Velikovsky was just plainly wrong when he claimed there were no intercalations in Ammizaduga's times". If he examines the record, Huber will find that Velikovsky has never made any such claim. Here again it is Huber who is "just plainly wrong", not Velikovsky.
Earlier in this second installment I quoted at length from HUBER to BASS, August 11, 1975. One of the sentences I quoted was this one: "Intercalary months were a reality throughout Babylonian history from before Hammurabi to the latest times, and you cannot afford to ignore them when discussing calendaric matters." I agree that we cannot afford to ignore them if they are a reality, but neither can we afford to invent them if they are not a reality. I suggest that Huber has invented these intercalary months as far as the period between the fourteenth and ninth centuries is concerned. This was one of the subjects that Huber and I discussed in San Francisco (ROSE to VAUGHAN, February 25, 1974):
Huber also thinks that the numerous early references to thirty-day months are no more indicative of the astronomical realities than are the late Babylonian calculating procedures that divided a 29½ -day month into thirty parts (the Hindus called each such part a "tithi"). He thus attempts to sweep away the massive evidence brought together by Velikovsky from all quarters of the world to the effect that from the fourteenth century to the ninth or eighth century there were twelve thirty-day months in a 360-day year, with no need for intercalations.
I am still waiting for Huber to produce any intercalation from the period between the last near-collision between Earth and Venus in the fourteenth century and the first near-collision between Earth and Mars in the ninth or eighth century.
I am still waiting also for Huber to produce any evidence that the standard month of thirty days that is so widely reported from that period is only an approximation - or even that the "days" were actually "tithis" - and that the lunar months really averaged just over twenty-nine and one-half days, as they do today.
HUBER'S "MAIN ARGUMENT": THE MOST OBVIOUS FLAW
Huber claims that the needed intercalations in the Ninsianna observations fit the attested intercalations under Ammizaduga. He said in San Francisco that this fit "was my main argument for establishing the claim" that the Ninsianna observations cover the reign of Ammizaduga.
This "main argument" contains a particularly glaring error or inconsistency, in Years 13 and 14, that I will discuss first. Other defects of the "main argument" will be discussed in the following section. In all of these remarks, I will use Huber's method of referring to intercalary months as 4A, 5U, 10U, and so on, meaning a second Adar in Year 4, a second Ulul in Year 5, a second Ulul in Year 10, and so on.
In the February, 1974, version of his paper, Huber reported (page 32):
But in his graph (Exhibit 6a, page 22a) and in the facsimile of his computer printout regarding the Ninsianna "data" and implied arcus visionis values (Exhibit 6, page 22), he used 4A, 5U, 10U, 11U, 13U, 19U, and 20A. Note that 14U is attested, not 13U.
In the "Revised version, April 1974", as we have seen, Huber added some material designed to show that (page 10) "the significance of the intercalations has been overlooked both by Velikovsky and by Rose". He also claimed that (page 10):
In his graph (now Exhibit 4, page 12) and in his printout (now Exhibit 8, page 27), he continued to use 4A, 5U, 10U, 11U, 13U, 19U, and 20A.
At that point, Huber seemed not to know about 13A. Then, with the publication of RP in 1975, Huber learned about 13A. (Actually, the 13A contract had been published by Finkelstein in 1972, but Huber seems not to have known this.) Huber's published version was revised to read as follows (page 125):
In his graph (now Figure 4, page 126) and in his printout (now Table 3, page 137), he continued to use 4A, 5U, 10U, 11U, 13U, 19U, and 20A.
No one has ever found any document attesting 13U, so even Huber does not at any point dare to list or suggest 13U as an attested intercalation. Nevertheless, in each version of his paper, in the graph, in the printout, and in all of his calculations, Huber uses 13U as his only intercalation within Years 13 or 14, in spite of the fact that 13U is not attested. He never uses the attested intercalations, 13A and 14U. Only with this sleight-of-hand is he able to give the illusion of a "fit".
HUBER'S "MAIN ARGUMENT": GENERAL DISCUSSION
Much of Huber's thinking about the intercalations under Ammizaduga is derived from LFS, especially Chapter IX, "Restoration of the Babylonian Calendar by means of Attested Intercalations", pages 60-68, which was written by Fotheringham, an ardent retrocalculator. Fotheringham cites a number of attested intercalary months for various years of various monarchs of the First Babylonian Dynasty.
For Ammizaduga, the monarch that we are most interested in here, Fotheringham cites published contracts attesting intercalary months in years 4, 10, 11, and (perhaps) 20 of the reign. He also cites an unpublished contract from late in the reign that allegedly shows that a year containing an intercalary Ulul was immediately followed by a year that, according to several published contracts, contained an intercalary Adar. Since the so-called Year 19 of the Ninsianna tablets mentions an Ulul the second, Fotheringham interprets Year 20 as the one with the intercalary Adar. Fotheringham also mentions "unpublished contracts" - two for Year 5 and one for Year 14 - that mention a second Ulul; he was informed of these by Schnabel. He gives us no further information about them, and he leaves us no straightforward way to check his claims. Perhaps there are such contracts, and perhaps there are not. (Someone might be able to resolve this question by looking for unpublished correspondence between Fotheringham and Schnabel.)
It should be noted that Fotheringham, like Huber, was on the lookout for such contracts. They had to be found, for the sake of the uniformitarian cause, and Schnabel seems to have been pressed into the hunt. Such ''findings'' are not neutral facts; they were actively looked for. Other facts that might not fit their theories were unwanted. If they were found, would they have been reported, or would they have been discarded as "garbled" or as "scribal error" or as "internally inconsistent", just because they failed to fit modern retrocalculations? Even the ones that are reported to fit may not fit at all; it needs to be determined whether the dates and readings reported for these contracts have themselves been influenced by uniformitarian retrocalculations. In the case of tablets that are only described as "unpublished" and that Fotheringham had presumably not even seen, this may be hard to settle. It is my opinion that Huber himself "does not add anything significant or new to the discussion. He rehashes some of the old nonsense in a biased way." But perhaps even Huber might be able to make a contribution in this matter of Schnabel's missing contracts. Velikovsky says that he "left something for Sagan to do". He has also left something for Huber to do, if Huber is really interested in doing something.
Today's Assyriologists do not seem to have the faintest idea where the Schnabel-Fotheringham tablets are or what they say. Hence we have to read LFS, a book that is now fifty years old, in order to learn about them.
The gradual deterioration and destruction and even "loss" of the tablets is just one more reason why we must sometimes consult and even prefer the older sources. Only the older writers saw some of the things that we wish to study. Shall we consult the carefully-showcased piles of dust that Neugebauer mentioned, or shall we consult those earlier writers who actually read the tablets before our Western nations with their advanced technologies allowed them to crumble?
Perhaps the strongly felt prejudice against using older sources is but a "logical" consequence of the very nature of uniformitarianism itself. For uniformitarians like to believe that what is available for their inspection now is no different from what was available at any other time in history, and the suggestion that they will have to consult ancient or at least non-contemporary sources is anathema to them. In this connection, see A. Mann Paterson's discussion of Dr. Velikovsky's discovery of the theoretical term, "ancient witness". In "Conditioning, Coping, and Concepts", KRONOS, Volume II, Number 2, page 73, Paterson writes:
* * *
Let us now consider whether Huber's "main argument" stands up to scrutiny. Let us first quote Huber's remarks on the subject, from pages (10-11)/125-127:
First, it must be stressed that Huber's attested intercalations for 19U and 20A not only "can be shifted somewhat"; actually, they can be placed anywhere that we like in the last five years of the reign: there is no reason whatsoever to favor placing them in 19 and 20 (unless we want to beg the question). But more about Years 19 and 20 a little later. Let us first look at some further aspects of Years 13 and 14.
Years 13 And 14.
Huber initially mentioned 14U as the only attested intercalation during Years 13 and 14. When he revised his paper for the Cornell book and added 13A to his list of attested intercalations, he for the first time began casting some doubt on 14U. Thus on page 125 he speaks of "13A or 14U", as if there were a choice, and he begins to hint that he would like to reject 14U on the grounds that it rests on Fotheringham's report that Schnabel had found an "unpublished contract" attesting 14U. When Huber lists the attested intercalations (page 125), he includes "5U" with no qualifications, but he says "perhaps 14U". He also says (page 144, footnote 13): "The 14U intercalation could not be verified by Erica Reiner and David Pingree . . . and is quite possibly wrong." But he cannot afford to make much of an issue of this, because he desperately needs 5U, which also rests entirely on Fotheringham's report that Schnabel had found "unpublished contracts" attesting 5U. Reiner and Pingree had the decency to express reservations both about 5U and about 14U (page 23), but such decency would be inconvenient for Huber, here. He doesn't dare undermine 5U, which he needs to keep, and so he casts aspersions only on 14U, which he needs to eliminate, without ever mentioning to his readers that any textual argument that he might use against 14U would also apply to 5U.
Huber also toys with the idea that the 13b invisibility might extend from X to XII rather than from IX to XI. This would lengthen the period of visibility prior to 13b, making the 13U intercalation unnecessary, and shorten the period of visibility after 13b, allowing room for an intercalary month such as Adar in 13 or Ulul in 14 (that is, 13A or 14U), but not both. This tactic is "just plainly wrong". The position of 13b in Section IV (which is, after all, a listing by months of disappearance) shows beyond any reasonable doubt that the disappearance must have been, not in month X, but in month IX (or just possibly in month VIII). In our Commentary, Vaughan and I reconstruct the original reading for Year 13b as "E IX 20 (2mld) XI 21 W", but at the moment all that we need to be concerned about is that Huber's suggestion that the disappearance might have been in month X is untenable. (It was also untenable fifty years ago, when Fotheringham tried it; see LFS, page 61, which may be where Huber got it.)
If Huber had handled the intercalations responsibly, he would have recognized 13A and 14U, which are attested, and he would have refrained from recognizing 13U, which is not attested. The result of using both 13A and 14U would be that both the disappearance and the reappearance in Year 13b would be too early to fit Huber's retrocalculations, as would be the disappearance in Year 14. The reappearance in Year 14, and all of the disappearances and reappearances in Years 15, 16a, 17, 19, 20, 21a, and 21b would be too late to fit Huber's retrocalculations. Indeed, all of the twenty six events after Year 10 would be misses. A few of these misses, such as the appearance in Year 11, may be near-marginal; nevertheless, the criteria enunciated earlier would make all twenty-six events misses. In Years 1 through 10 Huber would still have hits for twelve out of twenty-four events, but his overall score would be a pathetic twelve out of fifty.
Using the format explained earlier, we can express Huber's 76% failure as follows:
But Huber, who does not handle these intercalations responsibly, acknowledges only a 15% failure rate.
Years 8 And 16.
Huber also has intercalation trouble with Years 8 and 16, but on page (11)/126 he in effect denies this: "The remaining years must have been regular ones with no intercalary months". In Years 4 and 10, he wanted to need intercalary months to match the attested months, and he eagerly inserted 4A and 10U on the grounds that the gaps were too small for uniformitarian purposes and that they would have to be filled with intercalary months. The gaps were of 7m29d and 7m25d, respectively. The gap in Year 8 is only 7m23d (6m23d, if Vaughan and I are right). So why doesn't a gap of 7m23d need to be filled? The answer is clear: Huber doesn't want to fill that one, because that would be just one more place where his "fit" would break down. We don't have an attested 8U, and so Huber doesn't want to need one. But the need is there, and the unattested 8U must be counted as a miss. Obviously, Huber is rigging the data as he pleases, in order to "prove" that the Ninsianna observations pertain to Ammizaduga, and in order to "prove" that Velikovsky is "just plainly wrong". But the unjuggled data show that it is Huber who is "just plainly wrong".
Huber calls RP "definitive" (page 142). It is curious that Huber ignores RP's presumably improved readings for Year 16 (from K. 160). RP put the 16a reappearance on V 20, thus leaving only 6m25d for the period of visibility up to the 16b disappearance on XII 15. A 16U is badly needed, if Huber intends to follow these "definitive" new readings. This 16U, needed but not attested, is still another miss. (I am here discussing Huber, who was the one who used the word "definitive". For the time being, however, Vaughan and I must reserve judgement on the question of whether RP or, for example, LFS are correct about these readings for Year 16. Perhaps the resolution of this question will have to await a reexamination of K. 160 itself.)
Years 19 Through 21.
Huber's claimed "hits" with 19U and 20A are greatly weakened by the fact that they are not specifically attested as intercalary months under Ammizaduga. The intercalations that are attested from the last five years of the reign are not assignable to any specific year: all we know according to published contracts is that there was a second Adar in Year "17+a" and that there was a second Ulul in Year "17+d". (See RP, page 23, for references.) According to an unpublished contract made known to Fotheringham by Schnabel (see LFS, page 61), Year "17+a" immediately followed a year that contained a second Ulul. (That year need not have been " 17+d"; as far as we know, it could have been still another year with a second Ulul.) When all of these clues are put together, and when the 19U that is mentioned in the Ninsianna observations is taken into consideration (thus begging the question!), it is customarily maintained that d = 2 and that a = 3. In other words, it is usually concluded that there was only one second Ulul involved, that it was in Year 19 (or 17 + 2), and that the second Adar was in Year 20 (or 17 + 3).
But there are problems, from a uniformitarian perspective. Let us first set out all the information for Years 19 to 21b, including the alternative readings and even some of the reconstructed or inferred "readings" that Huber and others favor. The dates of disappearance and reappearance and the intervals of invisibility either are recorded on one or another of the fragments or else have been inferred to have been so recorded at one time (for details, see RP, pages 20 and 48-49). The periods of visibility are never included in the reports as we have them, but may be inferred from the dates of reappearance and subsequent disappearance.
If we recognize both 19U and 20A, and if we count from the midpoint of the invisibility in Year 19 to the mid-point of the invisibility in Year 21b, we find that one and one-half synodic periods have consumed at least 30m19d. (This way of counting does not yield results of very great precision, since conjunctions do not always fall near - let alone at - the mid-points of the invisibilities; nevertheless, this way of counting is accurate in the long run, and, given the information that we have to work with here, it is our best means of determining the approximate duration of a mean synodic period.) A uniformitarian would have to concede that the invisibilities in Years 19 and 21b are of the expected lengths for their respective seasons of the year, so we may discount weather problems that might otherwise have introduced a spurious lengthening of the invisibilities. But 30m19d is just over 29d longer than one and one-half present mean synodic periods of Venus (counting the months as present mean synodic months). So wouldn't it be simpler, and less offensive to uniformitarian sensibilities, not to recognize a 20A? In that case, with no "needed" 20A to postulate, there would be nothing in the Ninsianna observations to correspond to the attested "17+a" A under Ammizaduga, and this would clearly have to be counted as a miss.
Nor is 19U all that free of trouble, even though it is textually supported. In Years 19 and 20, between the reappearance on VI*14 or 17 and disappearance on III 25, there would be a period of visibility of at least 9m8d! A uniformitarian cannot accept such a period, and must seek to emend the text in order to avoid such an "astronomical impossibility". One obvious emendation would be to put the reappearance in VII, rather than in VI* (the reverse of what Hammurabi did with the tax date). That would solve the 9m8d problem, by reducing the period of visibility to a more "acceptable" 8m8d, and would also solve the 30m19d problem of the previous paragraph, by shortening the one and one-half synodic periods by one month, thus leaving just the right amount of room for 20A. But this way of killing two birds with one stone is not acceptable to the uniformitarians. The stone (changing VI * to VII) is too costly for them. It would mean questioning our textual evidence for a 19U in the Ninsianna observations, and that is perhaps the last thing any uniformitarian would want to do here. The usual choice is to do what Huber did, that is, keep both the 9m8d and the 30m19d, and hope no one notices.
* * *
Summing up, then, perhaps 19U and 20A should each be counted as a half-way hit and a half-way miss. Huber also has rather clear-cut hits for 4A, 5U, 10U, and 11U. But he has clear-cut misses for 8U, 13U, and 16U (each of which he needs, but is not attested), and for 13A and 14U (each of which is attested, but he cannot afford to accept).
These results are summarized in the accompanying table. Far from hitting on all of the intercalations, Huber has about five hits and about six misses. That may be good in baseball, but in the game that Huber is playing he must hit 1.000 or else he has failed. He has not hit 1.000. And he has failed. Those misses imply, according to his own uniformitarian principles, that the Ninsianna observations cannot possibly be from the reign of Ammizaduga. He has failed his own "stringent test" (page 10/124).
I have assumed that Schnabel was right about 5U and 14U - and of course about "17+a-1"U. But if Huber protests, l am willing to throw out both the 14U miss and the 5U hit. The only effect of that would be to lower his score slightly!
Huber makes a complete muddle of all this. He should be able to see that his intended "fit" has repeatedly broken down, but he claims that the fit is perfect and that the odds against obtaining such a fit by chance are greater than 1000-to-one. He does not offer any calculations or other support for that figure, but it doesn't matter. We need not be concerned about the odds regarding his fit unless there really is such a fit. In this case the fit is a product of Huber's hopes and imagination, but he is not deceiving anyone except himself and his fellow uniformitarians.
In advance of the A.A.A.S. Symposium, there was an exchange of letters between Velikovsky and Huber regarding the upcoming debate. In his letter (HUBER to VELIKOVSKY, January 23, 1974), Huber wrote:
It is unfortunate that Huber did not also reject other aspects of Fotheringham's work; as we have already seen, Huber's reliance upon Fotheringham's arguments about Year 13b is one of the weakest links in Huber's "main argument" that the Ninsianna observations are from the reign of Ammizaduga.
Velikovsky and Huber had a conversation in San Francisco on the day before the Symposium. According to Velikovsky, Huber seemed to be referring in that conversation to the eclipse alleged by F. R. Stephenson to have occurred on May 3, -1375 (historical), and to have been observed from Ugarit (Ras Shamra). The text given by Stephenson (Nature, November 14, 1970, page 651) is as follows:
During the debate the next day, Velikovsky pointed out that Rashap is Mars, and that
He also pointed out that, according to the revised chronology, Ugarit belongs, not to the fourteenth century, but to the ninth century.
By the time of the debate, Huber may have realized that Velikovsky had good grounds for rejecting Stephenson's alleged "solar eclipse" from the "fourteenth century"; in any case, during the debate he would only speak of another alleged eclipse, and at one point he seemed to deny that he had talked about or was even aware of the Ugarit "eclipse". Velikovsky replied as follows:
Huber's second alleged eclipse turned out to be a solar eclipse that was reportedly observed in China on July 8, -708 (astronomical). Neither the time of day nor the place of observation is given in the report, which detracts considerably from its value for uniformitarian retrocalculations. This eclipse was studied by P.M. Muller and Stephenson, who co-authored a paper given at a conference on the rotation rate of Earth in January of 1974. Their paper, "The Accelerations of the Earth and Moon from Early Astronomical Observations", was later published in the conference proceedings, Growth Rhythms and The History of The Earth's Rotation, edited by G.D. Rosenberg and S.K. Runcorn, 1975, pages 459-534. The eclipse in question is reported in the so-called Spring and Autumn Annals. According to James Legge, the original translator of much of this ancient material into English, the Spring and Autumn Annals in its present form can be definitely traced no farther back than about twenty-one centuries; even so, much editing and some inserting of additional items seems to have occurred (see Legge's The Chinese Classics, Volume V, Part I, "The Prolegomena", pages 6ff. and 16ff.).
The question that must be asked regarding such alleged eclipses is, were they really observed as reported or were they retrocalculated? It seems clear that a great many such reports are simply retrocalculations. Even R. R. Newton acknowledges the difficulties in using the various Chinese annals, and recognizes that it was not at all unusual for eclipses to be calculated. (See Robert R. Newton, Ancient Astronomical Observations and the Accelerations of the Earth and Moon (1970), pages 67-68.)
Huber himself should have been well aware that the ancients were just as inclined as are the moderns to rely on computation instead of actual observations. This can be seen from Science Awakening II: The Birth of Astronomy, written, according to the title page, "by Bartel L. van der Waerden with contributions by Peter Huber". In his Preface, van der Waerden says that "Huber has written considerable parts of Chapters 3 and 4". And Chapter IV opens with the words: "A considerable part of this chapter is due to Peter Huber (Federal School of Technology, Zürich)". But in that chapter we find such statements as the following (page 101):
This is also confirmed by Otto Neugebauer. In his The Exact Sciences in Antiquity, second edition, speaking of late Egyptian astronomy, he says (page 90):
Neugebauer later remarks (page 132) that before it was realized that the Babylonian records often included computed as well as observed events,
Indeed, the practice of including materials that were "not observed" is acknowledged by Huber himself on page 17/131 of his A.A.A.S. paper, and also in his review of Weir (Bibliotheca Orientalis XXXI ( 1974), page 88), where he quotes one of these calculated entries that bears the notation "not observed".
In Chapter IV of van der Waerden, we even find the year of twelve months of thirty days each that Velikovsky referred to and to which Huber raised unsupported objections (page 102):
(It is noteworthy that neither van der Waerden nor Huber has any basis, except uniformitarian presumption, for asserting that such months or years are merely "schematic".)
Finally, there are several passages in Chapter IV that refer explicitly to ancient abilities to calculate the dates of eclipses (pages 116, 117 and 119) :
It should be stressed that most such techniques can be applied to retrocalculation, as well as to prediction. Some of the techniques to which van der Waerden and Huber refer may be useful only for the short run, but others permit the retrocalculation of such events as eclipses over many centuries. This manufacturing of "data" is a popular procedure among uniformitarians. Isaac Newton was particularly fond of the technique (see Richard S. Westfall's "Newton and the Fudge Factor", Science, February 23, 1973, Volume 179, pages 751-758).
Another book by R. R. Newton - The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy (1977) - accuses Ptolemy of the "crime" of calculating various supposed observations that Ptolemy attributes to himself and to his predecessors. Among these "fabricated data" (Newton's language) are eclipse observations, some of which go back to the eighth century, nearly nine centuries before Ptolemy's own time.
Ptolemy's use of retrocalculation was pointed out by Velikovsky in Harper's Magazine, June, 1951, page 53:
If Ptolemy could carry his retrocalculations back eight or nine centuries, surely the authors and/or editors of the Spring and Autumn Annals could have retrocalculated some of the items that they included in such works. Ancient and modern scholars are two of a kind when it comes to the ease with which they retrocalculate and "correct" or "fill in" the older texts, solely on the basis of uniformitarian presumptions.
After Huber's paper was presented at the A.A.A.S. Symposium, one of the Symposium organizers, Professor Owen Gingerich of Harvard University, who apparently swallowed it whole, was interviewed by Robert Gillette for Science. Gillette's ensuing article quoted Gingerich as saying that "He [Huber] demolished Velikovsky" and that "There was really no point in continuing after that" (Science, March 15,1974, Volume 183, page 1061). In response to my inquiry (ROSE to GINGERICH, March 31, 1978), Gingerich said that, as he recalled, there was an "If Huber was right" in front of the statement that there was no point in continuing, but he also indicated that the report of his position by Gillette was accurate (GINGERICH to ROSE, April 26, 1978).
The readers of this present paper, after having seen all of Huber's principal arguments turn to dust, may now feel that there is really no point in continuing with any further discussion of Huber's work. I agree that Huber himself is not worth the bother of such a lengthy critique as this. So we will close soon. But it seemed appropriate to lay to rest some of the old nonsense that Huber rehashes. Also, it is to be hoped that readers will have found a number of constructive contributions contained within this paper, even though it was prompted by the obligation to expose Huber.
Perhaps I may be permitted to conclude with a more personal note. Huber has described himself as a "hobby-assyriologist". (His own field is mathematical statistics.) But I do not criticize his amateur status, for I too have been working with cuneiform astronomical texts even though my formal credentials are in other areas. Besides, we should always look at the arguments, not at the credentials of the arguer; and that is precisely how I have proceeded in this paper: my criticisms are of what Huber says and does; they are not directed at his lack of credentials.
But in the story of the A.A.A.S. debate, the fact that Huber is an amateur and only a "hobby-assyriologist" is of key importance, and reflects very badly upon the organizers of the debate: Professors Ivan King, Owen Gingerich, and Donald Goldsmith.
Originally, Dr. Velikovsky was promised that the panel would consist of three opponents of his views and three (including himself) defenders of his views. This promise was flagrantly broken, and the panel was rigged in such a way that only Velikovsky himself was allowed to speak in his defense. Four other panelists - Professors Storer, Huber, Mulholland, and Sagan - were outspokenly negative. Thus there were four-to-one odds, with approximately "equal time" for each of the five. The sixth panelist, Professor Michelson, was a self-styled "neutral" at the A.A.A.S. debate; later, in articles in Pensée and in Analog, he, too, displayed an entirely negative orientation.
The panelists proposed by Velikovsky were C. J. Ransom and myself. I was promptly rejected by the organizers on the grounds that my education was not in the hard sciences. That would not work for Ransom, who is a Ph.D. in plasma physics, so the organizers rejected him on the grounds that he was employed by a corporation rather than by a university.
The organizers then appointed their own choices, and declared the panel closed. One of their choices was Huber. The rigid criteria that served to exclude strongly pro-Velikovsky panelists like Ransom and me suddenly and curiously became very flexible when a self styled "hobby-assyriologist" wanted to present what he took to be "early cuneiform evidence" against Velikovsky.
When the Cornell volume was published, David Morrison and Isaac Asimov were added to the negative side, and Goldsmith wrote a long "Introduction". Velikovsky's lecture was dropped. (The four-to-one odds thus became seven-to-zero odds! ) Michelson's neutral paper was dropped, and even the transcripts were dropped.
The earlier fussiness about academic purity was also dropped. The book describes both Goldsmith and Morrison as holding positions outside academia: Goldsmith seems to have gone into business for himself, as president of Interstellar Media, and Morrison is an assistant deputy director of a department within the NASA bureaucracy. Sagan is only a part-time academician at best: he devotes most of his time to public relations work for Establishment Science and to advancing his television career (appearing with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, running Carl Sagan Productions, and so on). He is also available for lectures, at $3600 each. His recent bestseller - it is unlikely that Sagan, at least, will ever criticize Velikovsky for writing a bestseller! - is The Dragons of Eden, whose subject is the human brain.Astronomer Sagan would have no "credentials" to write such a book, according to the A.A.A.S. organizers (see also the review in Nature, Volume 272 (27 April 1978), pages 768-769). Finally, Isaac Asimov is hardly one who is known for his labors in the groves of academe; neither is he one to hold himself silent on fields in which he does not have professional credentials.
I criticize such people not for their enterprise or for their diversification, but for their flagrant inconsistency.